Introduction to the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)

  • The DESSA is a 72-item, standardized,  norm-referenced behavior rating scale that  assesses the social and emotional competencies  of children in kindergarten through the eighth  grade. The DESSA can be completed by parents/  guardians, teachers, or staff at schools and  child-serving agencies, including out-of-school  time (OST), social service, and mental health  programs.The DESSA is available in English  and Spanish. The assessment is entirely  strength-based.


  • Ideally, all students in grades K-8 will be assessed with the DESSA to determine their social and  emotional strengths and needs. However, completing a 72-item behavior rating scale on a  universal basis may be impractical due to limited human, financial, and time resources. A short  form of the DESSA, known as the DESSA-mini has been developed to meet this need for a  brief, economical, and efficient screener of social and emotional competence. 

    The DESSA-mini  consists of four equivalent 8-item forms. The DESSA-mini yields one score, the Social-Emotional Total,  that correlates highly with the Social-Emotional Composite on the full 72-item DESSA. The  DESSA-mini can be used as a universal screener for social and emotional competence. In addition,  the four equivalent forms allow for repeated measurement and make the DESSA-mini ideally  suited for use in a response to intervention (RTI) framework addressing social-emotional  competence. The DESSA-mini is also available in Spanish.


  • The Aperture System is a comprehensive, cloud-based system that is used to administer the  DESSA and DESSA-mini, store and organize assessment results (see Figure 7 below), generate  a wealth of reports, and provide access to social and emotional learning (SEL) growth strategies  and foundational practices. The DESSA System has been designed to streamline the processes and  workflows entailed in delivering a comprehensive SEL program.  

    Aperture is compliant with both COPPA and FERPA standards, and Aperture Education has signed  the Student Privacy Pledge, a set of standards and expectations established by the educational  technology industry. The Aperture Education privacy policy can be found at

    Aperture Reports - Aperture provides a wide variety of reports that are used to aid interpretation  of results, share information, guide SEL instruction, monitor student progress, and evaluate  outcomes. These reports are available at the individual student, classroom, site (e.g., school) and  program (e.g., district) level.